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Will Congress plunge us into the nuke power abyss?

Will Congress plunge us (again) into the nuke power abyss?


by Harvey Wasserman

Congress stands at the brink of the global-warmed nuclear powered abyss. Again.

In a victory for green power, a massive grassroots/internet campaign forced removal from the national Energy Bill of blank check loan guarantees to build atomic reactors.

But as you read this, House and Senate Democrats and Republicans are negotiating the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) has slipped in $25 billion in taxpayer-guaranteed loans for new nukes. The nuke reactor guarantees are bundled with $10 billion for renewable energy, $10 billion to turn coal into liquid vehicle fuel, $2 billion to turn coal into natural gas and another $2 billion to build a uranium enrichment plant.

Safe energy supporters are demanding (see www.nirs.org) that American taxpayers not be forced to pay for another fifty years of radioactive failure.

At an October press conference (http://nukefree.freevolt.org/), a coalition of virtually all the nation's major environmental organizations, along with musicians Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash, submitted more than 120,000 signatures to Congress.

Now that effort must be renewed to prevent a replay of radioactive history.

In 1952, President Harry Truman's Blue Ribbon “Paley Commission” Report showed that the future of American energy was with the sun and wind. Predicting 15 million solar-heated American homes by 1975, the administration pointed the way to a green, energy efficient economy. One that would have avoided the current climate crisis, and rendered the nation energy self-sufficient.

But in December, 1953, at the behest of the nuclear weapons industry, President Dwight Eisenhower told the world its energy would come from atomic reactors. The “Peaceful Atom” would provide electricity “too cheap to meter.” When no utilities would invest in it, the Republican administration offered massive subsidies, and federal insurance against liability for accidents and terror attacks. When it became clear the industry had no answer for its radioactive waste problem, the government promised to take care of it. Federal agencies promoted the technology while allegedly regulating it.

In the late 1960s, Dr John Gofman, the Atomic Energy Commission's top medical researcher, showed “normal” emissions from nuclear power plants were killing thousands of Americans yearly. He was fired.

More than a trillion dollars have been poured into a technology that now produces a very expensive 20% of our nation's electricity. No US reactor ordered since 1974 has been completed. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island have underscored the dangers of those that have been built. On September 11, 2001, the first jet that hit the World Trade Center flew directly over the Indian Point reactor complex a minute earlier.

Meanwhile a global renewable energy industry has boomed far past the Peaceful Atom. Major advances in wind, solar, bio-fuels, ocean thermal, wave, tidal and other green technologies have helped create a multi-billion-dollar business already taking off.

But for the Peaceful Atom, all this could have happened fifty years ago.

Now a much-hyped “revival” of this failed reactor technology again stands in the way. Wall Street will not finance it. Free market advocates like the Cato Institute and Forbes Magazine oppose it.

Domenici's loan guarantees would again divert our resources into the nuclear abyss, and again postpone the green-powered revolution that can save our economy and environment.

Bitter criticism is mounting against a divided Democratic Congressional leadership unwilling or unable to stand up to the Republican minority. Only a great green wave of public outcry---and calls to Congress---can now save us, within the next few days, from yet another lethal, expensive, global-warmed bout with atomic failure.

Will you help?

*************

Harvey Wasserman is senior advisor to the Nuclear Information & Resource Service and Greenpeace USA, and senior editor of FreePress.org, where this article first appeared. His SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org.

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